Official statistics often paint a bleak picture of the challenges facing our overburdened NHS but alarming new evidence has suggested the true state of play may be even worse.
Research by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine has found that at just one-third of NHS trusts, more than 38,000 patients have waited longer than 12 hours for a bed since the start of October – a stark contrast to official NHS England data which suggests only 13,000 patients have endured such waits across England since 2011/12.
The disparity is down to the RCEM measuring time in A&E from the moment a patient arrives at an emergency department (in common with how figures are recorded in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland), while NHS England take the starting point from when a decision to admit a patient is made – meaning hours in waiting rooms or corridors are not taken into account.
In a shocking recent example, a four-year-old boy slept on the floor on a pile of coats of the Leeds General Infirmary after being rushed to hospital by ambulance last week.
Despite the fact he needed an oxygen mask, he did not get a bed for over 13 hours before being diagnosed with influenza A and tonsillitis.
The hospital has apologised but added their staff have been working tirelessly in what has been their busiest week on A&E for almost four years.
Jack’s case and thousands of others like his show why it is vital the real scale of the problems make their way into official statistics – it is only through acknowledging the true reality can effective solutions be found.